“Social Media — the Colossus of 21st Century Communication”

General Service Board Meeting

The General Service Board of Alcoholics Anonymous, Inc. held its quarterly meeting at the Crowne Plaza Times Square Hotel, New York, NY on Monday, January 28, 2019. Leslie Backus, acting chair of the General Service Board, presided.

The topic of the First Quarterly General Sharing Session was “Social Media — the Colossus of 21st Century Communication.” Class A trustee Peter Luongo presented on the subtopic “Unity and Social Media” and G.S.O. staff member Sandra W. presented on the subtopic “Anonymity and Social Media.”

Trustee-at-large/U.S. Newton P. welcomed all, especially Conference committee delegate chairs. He read a portion of Bill W.’s Grapevine article from 1960 about “the vast communication net that now covers the earth…this colossus of communication.” Peter spoke about how Tradition One firmly and unequivocally states that A.A.’s unity is essential to the mission of carrying the message to the still-suffering alcoholic. He contrasted A.A. unity, which is straightforward and has stood the test of time, with social media, which “is neither straightforward, nor has it stood the test of time. It continues a rapid, unplanned and ungoverned proliferation toward an end that is equally unknown.”

Peter suggested that the answer is not to simply abandon social media, since it is often a helpful tool for those in recovery. Sandra, the second speaker, began jokingly by taking a selfie with the group “for my Instagram page.” Citing statistics about the billions of social network users worldwide and the frequency with which Americans use social media (often multiple times per day), she noted that for her the question is how we can maintain a presence on the social media landscape without compromising our Traditions.

Sandra referenced helpful resources such as the service piece “Anonymity Online” and the Conference-approved pamphlet “Understanding Anonymity.” She also referenced presentations from the recent 2018 Southeast Regional Forum, where a delegate presentation titled “A.A. and Social Media” discussed secret Facebook groups, acknowledging that “with advancements in technology, anonymity is a principle that will constantly need to be revisited.”

After the presentations, Newton invited sharing from the floor. A Grapevine director shared that she sees a great opportunity to reach millions of people with information about A.A. through social media, just as we reach people through our Public Service Announcements in order to help the still-suffering alcoholic.

A delegate chair suggested that our Class A trustees be the voice of A.A. on LinkedIn, in order to reach professionals. A delegate chair shared about her women’s group having a Facebook page. It began with simple posts about where everyone was going for dinner, which helped increase inclusiveness; eventually, however, there were posts that compromised anonymity.

A Grapevine director shared what he called the three absolutes when it comes to social media: this is the world we live in; these are the platforms that exist; and we have no control over what other human beings do. He feels that we need to vote, yes or no, on social media. If the vote is yes, then we need to develop an infrastructure within G.S.O. to engage with social media within our principles. A staff member observed that the question is not “should A.A. be on social media,” because A.A. is already on social media through individual members. But rather, should G.S.O. or AA Grapevine be on social media? In the past G.S.O. has been a communication portal, disseminating information, in a oneway fashion. Is there a need to change this? If so, how should this interaction happen?

An ACM shared that we need to be honest, open and willing to look at how we carry the A.A. message in the digital world. At his job, once he became open-minded about social media platforms, he found they were a great information resource. An A.A.W.S. director stressed that we focus on the accuracy of information about A.A. at the public level. She felt that our silence on certain platforms has opened the door for self-proclaimed spokespeople of A.A. who often misrepresent us with inaccurate information.

Newton ended the session by citing a statistic that the average millennial spends nine hours a day on social media. He feels that if we want to reach them we need to have a presence on social media.

If you would like to read the entire Quarterly Report from G.S.O. – click here

Step Speaker: Jimmy D.

If you are looking for a really great step speaker, head over to the Tuesday Night Speaker Meeting Group in Haltom City on Tuesday Nights at 7:00pm!

Anonymity: Our Spiritual Foundation

Presentation given by Erica C., Delegate Panel 67, Area 10 Colorado at the 2017 Southwest Regional Forum, San Antonio, TX

The first time I met with my first sponsor to begin Step work, I arrived fifteen minutes early at the restaurant where we had agreed to meet. I showed up with my brand-new, hot-off-the-press fourth edition Big Book complete with blue and yellow dust jacket. After I ordered my coffee, I placed the book on the edge of the table so that the waitstaff and other customers might see what a sorry state I was in. Poor little Erica, condemned to a life in Alcoholics Anonymous!

When my sponsor arrived, she took a look at the book, looked at me, and told me I needed to put a new cover on it—one that would conceal its title when I was out in public. Conveniently, the dust jacket is sheer white on the inside—I turned it inside out and wrapped my book in it while my new sponsor explained how anonymity was the spiritual foundation of all of our principles in A.A. She said I had no right to break my anonymity as an A.A. member before I had had any experience in recovery to demonstrate A.A. principles to others. Moreover, I never had the right to break another member’s anonymity, including hers, which I had broken by implication when I showed off my Big Book to all of the patrons in the restaurant. Then she asked me to read the essays on Traditions Eleven and Twelve with a laser focus on the principle of humility and self-sacrifice.

As clueless as I had been that morning, I read those two essays in the evening and felt deeply that humility and self-sacrifice—the abandonment of personal distinction inside or outside of the Fellowship as a function of my experience as an alcoholic—were practices that I sorely lacked. I was keenly aware of my desperate need for a personality change sufficient to bring about recovery from alcoholism. And through the guidance of this sponsor and our literature, I learned that one way to assure that I am practicing a genuine humility is to maintain my personal anonymity as an A.A. member at the public level, to be rigorous about practicing the principle of anonymity within the Fellowship, and to continually avoid personal distinction within A.A.

It is easy to think of anonymity simply as a matter of confidentiality. Our anonymity promise assures newcomers they can join the Fellowship without exposure to public ridicule or the stigma associated with alcoholism. There is, however, another dimension of anonymity—the spirit of the principle itself. The spirit of anonymity focuses less on confidentiality and more on humility and self-sacrifice. This can be much trickier because of its subtlety and its demand that we each, as A.A. members, constantly examine our motives in the way that we relate to one another.

As our Big Book says, one way that we help each other is by disclosing our shortcomings, so that others might identify with us and therefore reflect on their own practices. So in the interest of disclosure, I will share a few ways that I have acted outside of the spirit of anonymity as an A.A. member.

First… I once shared a sobriety anniversary with my friends on Facebook. Because my post was private, this act did not break the letter of anonymity. However, because my motive in posting the anniversary was a desire for praise and accolades for this milestone, I did break the spirit of anonymity.

Second… I have put A.A. members on a pedestal and sought prestige by associating with people whom I deemed important in the Fellowship. Again, this has nothing to do with confidentiality, but it reflects a lack of humility on my part as I seek to place others above myself or myself above others.

Third… I have told someone that I was in A.A. to elicit interest, intrigue, or sympathy. Because this was a personal disclosure, I did not break anonymity at the public level. However, my motives were not selfless, as I was seeking personal distinction as a function of my membership in A.A.

Fourth… I have discussed my work and professional life with A.A. members to seem special. Again, this was a subtle attempt to set myself apart from my fellow A.A. members—to obtain special distinction within A.A. One of the advisory actions from the 67th General Service Conference is to add more discussion about the spirit of anonymity, humility, and self-sacrifice to the pamphlet “Understanding Anonymity.” Although the letter of anonymity is simple—we do not disclose our membership in A.A. at the public level—the humility and self-sacrifice involved in the spirit of anonymity provide potential for a lifetime of continuous spiritual growth, both for our individual members and for the Fellowship as a whole.

A.A.W.S. Announces Licensing of Meeting Guide

November 2, 2018

Dear trusted servant,

We are pleased to announce that Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., has licensed the Meeting Guide technology. Meeting Guide was launched in November 2015 and provides a platform for local A.A. entities (Areas, Intergroup/Central Offices, Districts, etc.) to post their local A.A. meetings and currently provides information to more than 100,000 users, reflecting some 86,000 meetings. Since the meeting information is all made available through the app’s mobile-friendly interface, those seeking a meeting have a simple, one-stop place to look.

The collated meeting information will be available in the future through G.S.O.’s website, www.aa.org, and will be a component of the proposed A.A.W.S. app. The intent of incorporating the Meeting Guide component is to make it easier for members to find A.A. meetings.

A.A. Intergroup/Central Offices, Districts and Areas that provide online meeting lists are invited to have their meetings displayed through the Meeting Guide. If you are already synchronizing your meetings through the Meeting Guide app there is no additional action necessary. When the new aa.org website launches at some point in 2019, your information will be seamlessly included.

Please note the meeting information database will operate completely independently from the Fellowship New Vision (FNV) database that is currently supported by G.S.O. Meeting Guide is a separate tool that offers A.A. entities full control of their local meeting information and collects it
in one place. Users of this new portal will be linked to the service entity providing the information.

Participation is, of course, voluntary, but the more connected the service is to the Fellowship as a whole, the more powerful a tool it will become.  The current listing of Intergroups and Central Offices and other local entities in “A.A. Near You” on aa.org will not be impacted. Those wishing to contact A.A. in their community will still have access to the information that is currently available on the site.

We have developed instructions about how to connect with this new resource at https://meetingguide.aa.org. If you have any questions about this initiative or how to synchronize your meetings to this database, dedicated support is in place.

We welcome your input and suggestions.

In fellowship,

G. Gregory T., General Manager
A.A. General Service Office